By Jon Maib
It's been a long time since our Project TJ-7 graced the pages of C4x4. In fact, this is one of our very first projects when we started the magazine some 15 plus years ago. Back then, the TJ was king of the Jeep market and everyone was building and modifying them. So I knew we needed to build our TJ so we could show what could be done. A lot of work has been done on this project over the years and today I just refer to it as my 'point and shoot' Jeep. What do I mean by that? Simply, you point the Jeep towards what you want to climb and it just goes, the Jeep does the rest. So, here are a few things that we did to make this Jeep fun and capable (keep in mind, pictures are old, so quality back then is pretty weak):

Skyjacker 6" Rock Ready lift and skids:
Skyjacker sent me one of their new (at the time) 6" Rock Ready kits to install on the TJ. I had a buddy who owned his own shop and he helped us install the kit. Installation was pretty straight forward but the hardest part was cutting off all the original mounts. This kit has been incredibly awesome, versatile and has worked so well. The only problems I've had was the sway bar disconnects kept breaking, but Skyjacker redesigned them and haven't had that issue since. The other issue is that the heim joints have gone bad, but that's to be expected and why Skyjacker now has rebuild-able heim joints. Skyjacker also provided us with a steering box skid plate, a low profile belly skid plate and even sent a high capacity transmission pan.

Skyjacker Skyjacker Skyjacker Skyjacker

Custom bumpers and rock rails:
Instead of going out and buying pre-fabbed bumpers or side rails, since my buddy had a full fabrication shop, he let me use it and build all of my own bumpers and rock protection. With some square tube and some flat stock, I custom build all my own protection and are still using them to this day!

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Custom dash and rollcage:
While my Jeep was at my buddy's shop (Jeeptrix), he had asked if he could build a custom dash for it as he had never done one in a TJ before and then add a roll cage at the same time. Who was I to say no? We began by tearing out the original dash, had a sheet of metal custom bent and then we welded in the center section. We moved the cluster from in front of the driver to the center console and used the original plastic cover. This dash has been a real conversation starter for many years. About 2 years ago, I did a reconfiguration on it, including getting rid of the curved plastic over the cluster.

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Kilby onboard air and skids:
I worked with Brad Kilby of Kilby Enterprises to install an onboard air system using a used York air compressor from an old Volvo. The kit was pretty easy to install and after a bad compressor, this system has been in use for many years and has filled many tires. Brad also sent me one of his gas tank skid plates that seems to take more abuse than anything else on our Jeep. It has held up fantastic and continues to protect us.

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PRP Seats:
I worked with PRP Seats to custom design their daily driver seats to match the color theme of our TJ. The process was simple and they shipped out the seats quickly. These seats are super comfortable because they are a suspension seat and have been awesome off-road. After about 12 years, the only issue I've had is that one of the seats outer fabric has begun to tear. These things have held up so well and I may need to add to our Project Vulture one of these days!

PRP Seats PRP Seats

Borla exhaust system and cat back:
Due to a cracked header on our 6 cylinder which was a known issue for '97 TJ's, we contacted Borla and they sent us new headers and cat back system for the TJ. We took it to another buddies shop (Off-road General Store) and he helped us install and weld parts on. Plus, he had a lift in his shop, which made the install even easier. The exhaust system has been fantastic, sounds awesome and is still going strong!

Borla Borla Borla

Randy's Ring and pinon:
My Dana 35 decided to blow up one day driving it around town. Some friends of mine new money was tight for me at the time, so they showed up to my house with a Ford 8.8 to replace the blown 35. The 8.8 came with 4.10s though, which meant upgrading the front Dana 30 to match. I contacted Randy's and they sent us gears, an ARB locker for the front and a full Detroit locker for the rear (including all the installation stuff). Did the gear swap and locker install in my driveway. Wanna talk about quality, still using the 30, the 8.8 with the same gears and lockers til this day (almost 13 years later). To install the 8.8 however, I contacted Mountain Offroad and they shipped out their weld on coil conversion kits and then added bombproof motor mounts and a 1" body lift.

Randys Ring and Pinion Randys Ring and Pinion Mountain Offroad Mountain Offroad

Bestop Sailcloth Top:
Back then, Bestop just released their all new Sailcloth tops that was to reduce wind noise and came with tinted rear windows. I contacted Bestop and they shipped one out so I could install and review. The new top did everything they said it did and has been a fantastic top. It's showing its age now (over 14 years old) and has some rips from off-roading and a cracked window caused by freezing weather and a drive through. Seriously though, the best top I have ever owned!

Bestop Bestop Bestop

TJ-7 Conversion:
About 2 years ago, the TJ was showing its age with a cracking top coat and fading paint. I decided it was time for a refresh, so I started researching paint and came across a suede black paint that the hot rod community was using. It was a John Deere tractor paint called Blitz Black. You can get it pretty cheap, so I ordered a gallon and got to work converting the TJ to have a more CJ-7 look. I started by moving the blinkers that were located in the fenders, over to the grill using actual CJ-7 parking/blinker lights. I then cut the back roll cage off and gave the cage a 'fast back' look (which I kind or regret doing now). Once those were done, I painted the whole Jeep in Blitz Black. The transformation turned out so well, it's how I decided the color for Project Vulture! And for the record, I have had someone tell me I have a sweet CJ!

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This Jeep has been a fun project, is awesome to drive and does very well off-road. I know what this Jeep can do and try to keep it within those limits. Occasionally we will push it, but with all these upgrades, none of them have let us down yet!

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